What I’ve Been Writing – September 2014

After publishing my first cookbook, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’ve got a few projects in  different stages but had a real crisis of confidence toward the middle of the month. I had just finished reading two books in a week when my daughters were sick and home from school. I felt great for having read them and was filled with ideas but was struck with the feeling of “so what?” Why am I reading these books?

I can read them for pleasure, but if I want to be a writer I need to let my reading shade my writing like a pair of 3-d glasses makes a movie go from fuzzy to sharp.

With that in mind I set out to figure out if there was a project that might reconcile what I had been reading into something I could share. My question was, what have I read that might help someone? I eventually found it, something I’m temporarily calling One Day Toward Better Parenting.

I remember reading The Social Animal by David Brooks, a book where he uses a fictional story to bring up different psychological and social situations where he can give input from his research. That’s the model this project is following.  Right now I’m writing about how to fix their hectic mornings. Things like the paradox of choice, the value of preparation, and what to do when you get a more relaxed morning. Like most things it’s been exciting to write, but it also goes deeper in the sense that I understand the material. A lot of content on this blog is about me which has its value, but this book has a wider scope and hopefully that gives more credence to the ideas.

I had intended to write about the full day and then release it all at once, but another thought area made me consider a new option. In the area of technology, there is the idea of an MVP or minimum viable product. The concept is to create something at its most basic level, and then sharing it to get feedback from your users. An analogy is to think of it like making cupcakes rather than wedding cakes. It goes on to suggest you make awesome cupcakes, complete with different flavors, toppings, and filings rather than the – more complex – cake versions.

In this vein, I finished the section on mornings and will be looking for anyone who wants to share some feedback.  If you also have any suggestions for resources or things that productive parents do, please get in touch. Right now the work in progress is themed around two areas, what you can do the night before to avoid mornings pains and things you can in the morning to find some gains.

 

Words per day this month:

Last month I suggested six goals to support my six steps toward becoming a writer. Here’s how they panned out.

  • Apply to five other sites to write guest post.  I applied to five, was asked to help with one and kindly turned away by the other four. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get my foot in the door where it is, but it still feels a bit disappointing to be rejected by so many other places. Each time though I reflect on whether or not my work is to the level of a craftsman.
  • Write more than 50,000 words.  I finished the month at 35,000 words, well short of my goal. It’s an example of human psychology, that I would overestimated the number of 2,000+ word days and thought I would surely write more than I did. Even though I didn’t hit my goal for writing, I spent a good deal of time doing it. Last month I was on my computer for about 80 hours and half of them were dedicated to writing. According to Rescue Time my productivity pulse was a bit lower than last month, but in my short time using the program I’ve found that between 70-80 is a good number for me.
    September RescueTime   Your Monthly dashboard
  • Read 4 books, including Writing Tools. I read 5 books in September but only snippets of Writing Tools. Even though I didn’t read it,the goal made me pick it up more often and that might have been more valuable. Reading Writing Tools is like walking, if I do a little bit each day I feel better than not and doing it in bursts.
  • Publish my Whole30 cookbook. It’s up on Amazon and free on this site. I’ve shared it online a few places and people are very grateful for it. It’s sold 5 copies on Amazon. I also put it up for free here and that pdf version has a link to donate. It’s been downloaded 50 times with 0 donations. This pay/free experiment was inspired by an Amanda Palmer TED Talk.
  • Incorporate feedback from beta readings on my Whole30 diary. Ooof. I’m not sure where this project stands. It was exciting to write, and during that time it felt like I was doing really good work. Now not so much, it seems too personalized. If I spend time on this there is an opportunity cost I’m paying, and it is too high. I’m scrapping this project and chalking it up to a learning experience. Sometimes it takes these misguided efforts to get to the good ones.
  • Share a clean copy of my four bodies book. This has been a hard book to edit because I want to get it right and seeing the imperfections in what I wrote are lead to regular revisions. It should be done by now, but I’m hiding from it, not looking at it hoping that ignoring it will make it better. Toward the middle of the month I realized that’s not going to work, so I decided to spend 10 minutes on even number days working on it. That doesn’t seem like much – and it’s not – but it’s enough of a structure to move the project forward.

SIX STEPS OF WRITING

  • Continue to read a lot.  My reading has inched back up to pre-summer levels thanks to the kids being in school and a bit less to do as the weather gets cooler. My stack of books to read numbers 16 on my desk, plus whatever is on my Amazon wishlist. I’m experimenting with a speed reading technique for books I’m somewhat familiar with. Will report back on how this is going.
  • Work each day. I’ve written for 72 consecutive days. Nothing like Jamie Rubin’s streak but one I’m proud enough of not to break.
  • Write in different places. Not going so well. The problem with this has probably been that I lack a concrete plan. A better strategy might be to pick an area I know well, write an article and send that with requests to write there.
  • Be ready to fail. In hindsight this could have been titled “be ready to persist” because it’s not so much failure that will be demoralizing but plateaus. I’ve not hit a serious one of either.
  • Develop good habits. My writing and reading habits have been good, and neither has adversely affected the rest of my life. My main wish would be let audiobooks be more absorbing. That would be a serious productivity boost.
  • Built my toolkit. Like #3 this one has been harder than I expected. I thought that maybe I could study writing tools like math problems and slowly figure things out. Right now I’m trying to become a writing craftsman but haven’t committed daily like other steps.

GOALS FOR OCTOBER

I’m not going to set any goals for October. My number one project is the parenting mornings project and writing the Stoic Sunday posts here. If you listen to the James Altucher podcast you can see my notes online.

My reading for the month may also be a little different. I’ve signed up for a few Coursera courses – as I often do in the fall – and will probably complete one so that will cut into my time to read.

Have you been writing anything or need someone to look at something? I’m always trying to expand my horizons, let me know in the comments or on Twitter, @MikeDariano.

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